UPDATE: The Spike Lee film on ABC last night has pushed the “Bad25” boxed set up to number 37 on amazon.com.
Earlier: The Spike Lee documentary on Michael Jackson, “Bad 25,” aired Thursday night on ABC. For some reason, I could never get anyone to send me a review DVD, so I waited and DVR’d it in real time. “Bad25” the doc is pretty much a sales vehicle for the “Bad25” boxed set of four discs–the original album, the outtake demos, a Wembley Arena concert–that is worth buying as one package.
Indeed, last night’s showing sent “Bad25” the boxed set up to number 189 on Amazon.com, so it was a success. Spike Lee makes excellent documentaries, so it’s no surprise that he’s turned the making of “Bad,” Michael’s followup album to “Thriller,” into a good yarn. He weaves in some amazing clips of Michael performing on the “Bad” tour, and we get to see the real unfettered genius — dancing, singing, composing–that was Michael before the 90s began and his life fell apart in an almost non stop fast forward of catastrophes.
No effort is made to examine what happened after “Bad” and its tour. One thing that happened was Michael’s capricious dismissal of Frank DiLeo, the manager who steered him through the 80s and his great successes. DiLeo was starting to voice disagreement with Jackson about the direction of his life, and Michael–who in Spike Lee’s movie comes off as an enchanted child–showed off his willfulness and fired him. Almost no mention of DiLeo is made in the Spike Lee film, although he gets a nice thank you on the boxed set. If, if, if…If DiLeo had remained, maybe Michael would not have spent money wildly and indulged fantasies that became his undoing. We’ll never know. But after that, no ever said ‘no’ again, and if they did, they were gone.
A lot of other people are noticeably absent from the Lee film, but Spike keeps it on the music. And in that it’s only good. Just the full length clips of Michael, live, performing “Man in the Mirror” (which he didn’t write) and “Another Part of Me,” are worth the whole movie. Also, Spike does reference the various influences Jackson had from Fred Astaire and old black and white movies. Like Madonna, Michael Jackson was proficient in processing what came before him and re-imagining it for a new generation.
Some things are said in this movie and left unexamined, including observations about Michael’s image with women needing change, his insistence on using a high little boy’s voice instead of his own deep register, and his being “too shy” to kiss the hot girl at the end of a video. These things just hang in the air. There were a few other things I found odd, or funny, but they’re irrelevant right now. The main purpose of “Bad25,” besides generating income, is to appreciate Michael Jackson’s art. Judged just for that, Spike Lee did a great job.